Friday, 25 February 2011

My proudest moment

Last Sunday Tennant Pippin and I went over to my sister's new place to check it out for the first time. Naturally my lovely sister brewed me up a pot of tea (T2 Creme Brulee, tres nice).

Pippin was chattering away and I wasn't paying much attention, but then I heard Tennant say, 'Hey guess what? Pippin just said "TEA"!'

And it was true. Pippin was pointing at my mug and saying, as clearly as he could, 'TEA!'*

I was So. Proud. I almost cried.

Then, this morning (yes, it gets better!!) we were all just about to head downstairs for breakfast and I said 'I'll put the kettle on.'

Pippin immediately said 'TEA!'

We tried to get him to say it again: 'Pippin, what happens when mummy puts the kettle on?' - but all he would do was giggle and say 'Yay!' Also an entirely correct response, I would note.

He is a boy after my own heart. Oh, I am so proud.

Here he is having a teaspoonful or so of some cooled Giddapahar autumn flush after his breakfast:

*it comes out more like 'K-HEE!' (he is not super good at 't' words yet) but it is entirely clear what he means. I am not wishfully thinking this.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Tea tasting comparison FAIL

Well, of all the brain dead things to do... I set up a little taste comparison between two 2009 Autumn Flush Darjeeling teas which I picked up inexpensively late last year from Thunderbolt Tea - one from Sungma Estate and one from Giddapahar. I've been drinking quite a bit of the Sungma on a daily basis but I wanted to compare it with the other.

So I set it all up, two teapots, two mugs (colour coordinated with the teapots if you please, although that was more by happenstance than design), warmed them all up, weighed the leaf (2g of each), steeped, poured... And then I couldn't remember which leaves I put in which pot.


The green mug brew was spicier, lighter; the blue mug brew was a bit thicker, darker tasting and slightly sweeter & more musky - so I think that one may have been the Giddapahar and the green mug the Sungma. I'm not sure though. at least they were both delicious.

I guess if at first you don't succeed...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A couple of things

I've had a couple of interesting comments posted lately and I wanted to respond to them where more people may see the reply.

Alex commented on my post about What's a letter worth? :

The few times I've tasted tea from the same harvest and garden of different grades, I have not always preferred the "better" grades. Sometimes, higher grades taste more delicate, and I may want a more robust tea.
Also, you can't generalize about the price of grades. I've picked up some FTGFOP1 Darjeeling First Flush when it was a bit late and out of season, and yet still fresh and outstanding quality, for a lower price than a lot of "lower" grades.

Re: the first point he makes: I agree, I often prefer the more robust-flavoured teas myself (although I do enjoy a first flush Darjeeling). Sometimes I feel a bit bad about this: does it mean I am actually not as sophisticated a tea drinker as I like to imagine myself? But, really, does that matter? I like what I like... and there it is. Of course it's also good to try different things, of course and to be open to putting aside my preconceptions about tea (like with puerh for example, but more on that in another post) because I might be pleasantly surprised.

In relation to Alex's second point, I also agree - I have also picked up high grade teas for a bargain price, for example when they are from the previous season and the new crop is coming in and commanding the higher prices. In my experience though, this is something that is most likely to happen with online and, in particular, specialist tea vendors such as Thunderbolt Tea in Darjeeling. It seems to me that the average Australian consumer walking into a bricks and mortar store would be unlikely to be confronted with information about the latest, freshest teas and given an opportunity to purchase previous crops for a cheaper price regardless of grade... if that makes sense. Even in a store with a broad range of quality teas you would have to know what you were looking for, and be prepared to ask the staff about it if you wanted something so specific. Does anyone else have an opinion about this, from an Australian perspective or from elsewhere?

In response to my post on Sustainable, organic and fair trade tea, Jenny asked

How about you? Do you go for organic tea(products)?

In general, I would have to say: No, not specifically. I do my best to purchase as much as I can from companies who produce high quality goods - tea, food and so on - and this sometimes means that the products are organic (e.g. at the farmers' market) and sometimes that the company has a strong social ethic (e.g. Thunderbolt Tea). I like to purchase close to the source, hopefully ensuring that more of the money goes directly to the people involved - again buying tea from Thunderbolt Tea is a good way to do this and Obubu Tea in Japan is also excellent (and all of their teas are delicious as well).

It is important to me that the products I consume are as ethical as possible - but as the interview I linked to in the previous post indicates, ethical  production and consumption are not as simple and clear-cut as one might think!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sustainable, organic, fair trade tea

I am quite the groupie of Nigel Melican of Teacraft Ltd - his knowledge and experience in the industry is vast and I am always interested in what he has to say. So, you can imagine how rapt I was to discover that Cinnabar of Gongfu Girl had interviewed Nigel at last year's World Tea Expo and shared the interview on Cha Dao.

If you care about issues of sustainability, organic farming and fair trade - in relation to tea in particular of course, but I think there is much in this interview that applies to agriculture and trade in general - then you should read this. The following excerpt is one I found particularly thought provoking:

NM: I'll give you an example of the dilemma that you might get into. I was working with a new tea grower in Hawaii -- not one of the small guys that we've seen at the Expo, but someone who wanted to do it on a hundred-acre scale, 200-acre scale. He wanted to be organic, said the production must be organic. He was a berry farmer on the mainland, and he always had an organic farm, and he wanted to have an organic tea farm. So we started off and sourced his tea and his raw materials from Africa and got it planted, and his soil was not acid enough, which is unusual for Hawaii, but this was an old sugar-cane plantation and they'd put down a lot of chalk, to benefit the sugar cane. This was 20 years ago, but it was still there. The normal way that you'd acidify soil for tea is to put sulfur on it. Sulfur is recognized by the organic people; they're happy with it. So he goes off to his supplier and when he sees the sulfur that he's offered, he says, "where does it come from?" and they say it's a by-product of the petrochemical industry, and he throws his hands up in horror! So we look and see what else we can get. It's possible to get sulfur which is rock sulfur, mined sulfur. The dilemma is, would you rape the countryside with big holes, ripping out rock sulfur, or would you use a by-product of the petrochemical industry that has to go somewhere, and is at least greening the petrochemical industry at least a little bit?

C: Why would the organic regulations say that you couldn't use petro-chemical by-products?

NM: the regulations don't say that you shouldn't, but they would prefer that you use the natural sulfur.

C: "Organic" meaning that you take it from the earth regardless of consequences? That makes no sense.

NM: No it doesn't make a lot of sense. That's why I say that sustainability and organic should be done with some degree of realism.

The interview is relatively lengthy, so it's been divided into three parts. Definitely worth every minute of your reading time and worth coming back to. Check it out here!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


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